The Government’s review of the application and effectiveness of planning policy for Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) has been published, over six months late. It finds that whilst planning policy is driving SuDS in new developments, only 30% of local authorities are monitoring actual delivery post-planning, and shockingly that 70% of applications have no provision for maintenance.
The resources of local authorities are clearly stretched and 40% of Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) noted that their time, expertise, and resources to assess planning applications were under pressure. This was exacerbated by seasonal variation in the volume of applications, and a difficulty in recruiting skilled drainage engineers. In ADA’s view the failure to implement Schedule 3 of the Flood & Water Management Act 2020 has clearly limited the ability of local authorities to dedicate the resources needed to this important aspect of flood risk management in England.
The report found that the typical reasons cited by developers against the inclusion of SuDS were not justified. In the majority of cases these were a combination of land-take and economic reasons. Developers’ understanding of the multiple benefits of SuDS were low, and their understanding of their requirements for maintenance was also judged to be ‘inconsistent’. Officials, from both LLFAs and local planning authorities, suggested that specific concerns around adoption and maintenance (specifically the costs) were given as reasons for applicants not to include SuDS in their planning proposals.
The Report concluded that arrangements around sharing good practice and innovation can positively influence the uptake of SuDS in new developments. It said that there was ‘potential for industry bodies to address skills and knowledge gaps through streamlined and updated industry guidance’.
However, ADA believes that guidance alone is not the solution, and that more clarity is needed regarding SuDS within planning policy, particularly with regards to adoption and maintenance arrangements. Ultimately this lack of clear direction is holding back the take-up and effectiveness of sustainable drainage to meet our growing surface water management needs.
CIWEM, who will be holding a Surface Water Management 2018 conference in London on 17 October, also commented that we need stronger government guidance for real progress on developers and multifunctional SuDS.
The Government’s report can be downloaded from the Ministry of Housing & Local Govenment’s website.